Castlegar Community Album: Industry and Development
Castlegar has always had two things in its favour - its climate and its natural resources. The largest and most compelling of the natural resource bundle has been water. In the early going water meant transportation and with the mighty Columbia and Kootenay Rivers joining at Castlegar, the boats congregated there, first at Sproat's Landing, then Robson, then Castlegar. Railways followed, building from the supply routes established by the paddlewheelers and barges. In later years the roads developed and turned Castlegar into the active junction point of West Kootenay.
Water always made life relatively easy in the Castlegar area. Run of the river water wheels produced power to make agricultural pumps function. Later, dams were constructed to replace the water wheels and to provide power for much of the Columbia Basin. Water made it cheap to move wood from the forest to the mill, resulting first in large and increasingly efficient sawmills, then later in a large kraft pulp mill noted for the quality of its product.
As the forests were cleared and the rivers utilized for power, agriculture and climate came to play a larger role in the area. The Doukhobor labourers cleared the Brilliant and surrounding area and planted fruit. English migrants planted orchards in the Robson region, with other fruit growers extending up the Arrow Lakes and all shipping down river to catch the railway at Castlegar.
The solid nature of agricultural pursuit and the liquid economy of construction and forestry combined to bring more development to the Castlegar area. An airport was built, further solidifying Castlegar's position as a transportation centre. Selkirk College was constructed, making the local economy even stronger and greatly helping to expand the arts and culture community in the region. From brickyards to ballparks and ballrooms, Castlegar has grown steadily over the past one hundred years and shows no sign of slowing.